‘Experimentation platform’ Optimizely launches Australian office

Australia jumping off point for APAC push by martech company

US marketing technology company Optimizely has launched a Sydney office, with the company’s local head, Dan Ross, saying its “experimentation platform” for marketers has seen 257 per cent year-on-year growth in Australian usage.

The acquisition of local customers has until now been largely organic, and in addition to adding to their ranks the company sees Australia as a jumping off point for the rest of the Asia Pacific, said Ross, who is the managing director of Australia and New Zealand for Optimizely.

“We’ve managed to acquire all these customers from afar and while we’re really enthused with the positive response we think we can do better by being on the ground,” he said.

“A lot of tech companies, especially Silicon Valley ones, make the mistake of trying to treat the rest of the world as ‘California West’. We want to be on the ground with our customers, interacting and learning from them,” Ross said.

“There’s also a couple of larger things at play here,” he added. “I think Australia is going through a bit of a transformation digitally: The handful of duopolies or triopolies that existed in most industries are starting to be shaken up by digital disruptors — whether that’s Amazon entering the market, or Netflix for content, or some of the fintech startups growing locally.

“Businesses are coming to us saying, ‘How do we compete with these very agile companies?’ We think we can help them.”

Optimizely was founded in 2010 by Dan Siroker and Pete Koomen. Three years prior to its launch Siroker was a product manager of Google, but after a speech on data and data-driven decision making by Barack Obama he was inspired to quit his job and work for the election campaign of the future US president.

“During that time he found that trying to figure out what messaging or content would resonate with what set of voters – whether rural or urban, or male or female – was actually a pretty hard thing to do with existing technologies,” Ross said.

Optimizely was founded as a result of the challenges Siroker faced while director of analytics at the Obama for America campaign.

The company launched primarily as a way for non-technical marketers to run A/B tests or multivariate tests to determine what types of interactions best resonate with their customers, Ross said.

“Seven years on, we’ve now grown and evolved into what we see as an experimentation platform not just for marketers but for entire businesses across really any digital touch point as companies struggle to bring together their customer journey and experiences,” Ross said.

Local customers include Fairfax Media, Kmart, Optus, Allianz, Atlassian, AGL Energy, Chemist Warehouse and Fox Sports.

Another Australian customer Ross said is an Australian airline “known to be a good value option.” The airline has “razor-thin margins” and uses Optimizely to mitigate the risk of a drop in its “exceptionally high” online conversion rate.

“They’ll come up with an idea for how they can make a change or improve something and then using Optimizely they’ll put a little bit of their visitor traffic through, see how that responds — kind of stress test it — and then they’ll put a little more, and a little more and a little more. Until they’re confident that that change, at minimum, has no negative impact and ideally has a positive impact — and then they’ll roll the whole change out site-wide.”

Another local customer — an an ASX top 50 company — is using the platform to launch into a new market in Australia.

“They had never been there before and so they didn’t really know the customers – and the customers didn’t really know them. Rather than just going to some media agency, giving them a few million bucks and saying ‘craft some messaging for us’ they decided to test it,” Ross said.

“They came up with six different message ideas for what they thought might resonate with this new customer base. They ran a test using Optimizely to try to identify which message would resonate with the new customers and it was actually one of the six, but not one of the ones they thought would win.

“Now they’ve taken that learning and they’re drilling in on it and they’re basing a lot of their launch messaging strategy on it and the subsequent tests that have followed it.”

Optimizely currently has around a dozen local employees; within a year Ross said he expects that will probably grow to a headcount of at least 20.

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